Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
This is a factual retelling of a shipwreck on Lake Superior in November, 1975 that claimed the lives of 29 crew members. On November 10, 1975, the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald broke in half and sunk in Lake Superior. The storm she was caught in reported winds from 35 to 52 knots, and waves anywhere from 10 to 35 feet high.
She was loaded with 26,116 tons of taconite pellets at the Burlington Northern Railroad, Dock #1. Her destination was Zug Island on the Detroit River. There were 29 crew members who perished in the sinking.
In the US, this was held out of the #1 spot by Rod Stewart's "Tonight's The Night."
This was nominated for the Song Of The Year Grammy, but it was beaten by Barry Manilow's "I Write The Songs." (thanks, frank - pembroke pines, FL, for above 3)
Paul Gross hoped to use this tune for his episode of the TV show Due South, "Mountie on the Bounty." He discreetly tried to secure the rights to use the song, but out of respect for the families who wished not to be reminded of the tragedy he didn't pursue the option aggressively. He instead wrote the similarly themed song "32 down On The Robert MacKenzie." (thanks, Billy - Plymouth, NH)
Ohio-based Great Lakes Brewery produces a beer called Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. (thanks, Douglas - Waterloo, England)
In 1970, baseball commissioner Bud Selig's co-founding partner in the Brewers was fellow Milwaukee businessman Edmund B. Fitzgerald, a patron of Milwaukee arts and civic projects, and the son of a family that owned Great Lakes shipyards. In 1958, the freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald was named for Edmund B.'s father. Fitzgerald later became a professor at Vanderbilt University.
An initial investigation suggested that the crew was partly to blame for the disaster by not securing the ship's hatches. Lightfoot's song reflected the original findings in the verse, "…at 7 p.m. a main hatchway gave in." However, in 2010 a Canadian documentary claimed to have proven the crew of the ship was not responsible for the tragedy. It concluded that there is little evidence that failure to secure the ship's hatches caused the sinking.
Lightfoot said he intended to change it to reflect the new findings. "I'm sincerely grateful to yap films and their program The Dive Detectives for putting together compelling evidence that the tragedy was not a result of crew error," he said in a release. "This finally vindicates, and honours, not only all of the crew who lost their lives, but also the family members who survived them."
This all-female group of country rockers were on their way to stardom in the '00s, with a Starbucks deal and major label backing.
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash
The Wishbone Ash guitarist on how touring with The Who inspired one of their most enduring songs, and why they moved to America at the peak of their powers.
The good doctor shares some candid insights on recording with Phil Spector and The Black Keys.